The town was still asleep when our bus dropped off one passenger in Banaue, Ifugao. At that quick stop, I tried hard to peer through the misty glass windows of the bus hoping I could glimpse a bit of this place made famous by the world-renowned Banaue Rice Terraces. Sadly, I could hardly see anything at all. Outside was still so dark that I could not even make out the silhouette of the mountains which surrounds the area. A quick debate raged within me, to go down there or to continue on with the journey.
If I go down, it was prime opportunity to cross out one of the top Philippine destinations off my travel bucket list and one famous landmark in Luzon Island – the Hagdan Hagdang Palayan ng Banaue, a UNESCO inscribed world heritage sites. But looking inward, I know I can’t go down, I was after all chasing my dream of a different highland.
Back on our way and after an hour or so, our bus took one of its rare official stop by the side of a small store. This time I don’t know where we were but this store perched against the massive mountain wall and the adjacent bunker as seen on the pic below are the lone structures I could see with the limited visibility. The store was small but it does offer hot coffee, a luxury for passengers holed up in a freezing cold bus for several hours.
Several passengers took that chance to go down the bus and stretched the aching butts and muscles or buy that coffee to perk up tired, weary selves. I also needed a breather; the bus was really cold that I had my favorite pink jacket zipped all through my neck which I’ve never done before. So I told my travel buddy and bf Titus that I am going down to see what’s up on the ground. Naïve that I was of the highland towns, I really thought that outside in the open air, the temperature is kinder.
Lol I was so wrong. Stepping onto solid ground, blast after blast of cold wind whipped my hair into frenzy and numbed my face, arms and hands that I can no longer feel anything with them. For a few minutes I tried to be braved and challenged the unforgiving cold wind but alas an islander is no match to the harshness of highland climate so I folded up and went back up to the bus.
It was a blessing, because the bus did not feel as cold as it did before. 🙂
Faint red and orange streaks, the beginning of dawn, appeared in the sky but still it was not enough to dispel the surrounding darkness.
The bus rolled back on the lonely highway. Kilometers after kilometers since leaving Banaue, there was no other vehicle on the road save for our bus. It was another reminder that we
were on another planet have truly left the traffic and chaos in the city.
When dawn finally broke, we were approaching Bontoc, Mountain Province capital city. The scenery has become clearer and clearer demanding attention. Wide-eyed and soaking in the surrounding beautiful mountains and the gorgeous pockets of rice terraces, my excitement level rose up but was immediately tempered by the views of gorges just a few meters from the bus and the deep, deep drop which becomes all too real too hehe. The experience was both scary and exhilarating especially for first timers to the mountain provinces.
This is one trip I recommend you try. It’s soooooo worth it! =)
One of the mini rice terraces by the roadside in Bontoc
Finally our bus from Manila reached pit stop in Bontoc after 10 hours of travel. Just one more leg and I’d find myself in Sagada, my final destination. Hapit na dyud!!! 😥
Welcome to Bontoc in the Cordilleras!
If you are going to Sagada by way of Bontoc, take time to explore this small city.
Mountain City Waking Up!
Gorgeous mountain backdrop!
This 2 storey elementary school building in Bontoc gives off that old, rustic vibe except for the Philippine flag that looks new.
Saint Vincent’s Elementary School
We arrived just time for the school’s flag raising ceremony on the far left side of the old building above. There are newer school buildings there, which makes me wonder if the first pic of school building is no longer operational?
The children were all lined-up nicely. =)
Being isolated in the highlands and far away from Manila, the Igorots of the Cordillera were able to develop a very strong sense of identity, flourishing culture and unique traditions that has withstood the pressure of the colonizers.
Smiling face of an Igorot student
Don’t miss out on visiting the Bontoc Museum where you can find a mini Igorot village set-up on the ground as well as take that opportunity to know more about the proud Igorots, inhabitants of the Cordilleras. The museum is a treasure trove of historical records and artifacts about the life and culture of the Igorots.
This travel blogger is happy to be in Bontoc!
Bontoc Museum, Mountain Province
*The museum complex is big with a wide area for the makeshift Igorot Village.
To read more on this adventure, please click posts below:
This ultimate vacation happened summer of 2010 but up to this day, the sojourn to the highlands is my favorite of all trips I’ve taken. Immersing myself in a completely different surrounding where everything was unfamiliar was wonderful and liberating. It was also the trip that made me realized that if it’s your dream, you can make it happen. I’ve always dreamed of going to Sagada and that summer of 2010 I made it there.
Those days I was also not blogging yet, so I saw everything through different sets of eyes. I think a blogger can never be fully there at a single moment in a new place a 100%. This is very true for me, probaby true too for other Philippine travel bloggers. When I visit a place for the first time, the mind is also churning taking notes of what is seen and felt – composing what it is to blog and share about. As a consequence some feelings and experiences are diminished/lost in the process. BUT would I trade what I have become now to go back to being a normal visitor or tourist?
No, I’m happy exploring places and then blogging about it.
Blogging about vacation and trips makes the memories, at least those that you remember, more vivid. It also allows you to share part of yourself to those who care to read your words. Your blog too becomes a record of some of your life’s highlights, milestones and important events which you can read back again and again, refreshing your memory, reliving the moments. Those are just a few reasons why I think being a blogger is wonderful and fulfilling.
My Sagada adventure blog series were the very first posts on my original Penfires blog in WordPress.com, that was when this blog does not have its own personalized domain yet. I have come a long way from the blogging newbie stage, plus, I’ve been to tons of places and tourist spots since my trip to the highlands.
Right now, there is this one reality I could not escape, I realized that as I crossed off one must see place from my bucket list, five or more destinations are added to it.
#Life when the travel bug hits you. =)
Next dream destination: Batanes! One day I’ll find myself in the midst of Ivatans. 🙂
To conquering more dreams and discovering new places! CHEERS!